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Soul Meetings




"What I learnt in
Berlin and Paris"
First letter of a series of letters to a well know Scientist
A letter from the year 1964

Sholom uBrocho:

Thank you very much for your letter of July 29th. I wish to express again my regret at having had to defer the pleasure of receiving you personally during your recant visit. It happened to be a time when, according to long-standing custom, no personal visits are arranged, for reasons which are beyond this letter. Moreover, I was gratified to note in your letter that the circumstances were well taken by you.

It was with a great deal of pleasure that I read about your impressions of the Farbrengen in which you participated, and your sharing same with others back home. May you go from strength to strength in all your efforts to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit.

I trust you will receive favorably also my following remarks, since I wish to tell you my pleasure when reading in your letter that your children attend Gan Israel Camp. This gives me the confidence that you have your wife's concurrence in your “involvement” in Chabad (a matter I had hesitated to broach for reasons of discretion) and - what is no less Important - that your children are reaping the benefits thereof. For, as is self-evident, where children are concerned, every benefit accruing to them in childhood is multiplied as they grow into adulthood. May G-d grant you and your wife much true Yiddish Nachas from them.

We are now in the auspicious month of Elul, when we add to our prayers Psalm 27, "G-d is my light and my salvation," twice daily This profound and uplifting Psalm fittingly concludes with the words, "trust to G-d,'' repeated twice in the last verse. May this and all other prayers of everyone of us, in the midst of our people, be fulfilled, and may you and yours be blessed with a Kesivo vachasimo toivo.

With blessing [sig.]

P.S. You refer, in passing, to my letter relating to the theory of evolution [click here to read the letter]. I am prompted to reveal to you that the letter was written in reserved and guarded terms, inasmuch as my purpose is to win adherents to the Jewish viewpoint. Hence I try to avoid anything which might deter some individuals from a deeper commitment to Yiddeshkeit. In writing to you, however, I will be more candid, being certain that you will not take my remarks amiss.

You write that your secular background and scientific training you from immediate acceptance of some of the concepts outlined in my said letter (although acceptance or non-acceptance of some in no way modifies your obligation to perform Mitzvos). Frankly, it surprises me very much that you cannot accept those concepts.

My said letter does not appeal to "belief"; its premises are scientific, based on my years of scientific study, first at the University of Berlin, and later at Paris. I upheld the possibility of the Creation account in Bereishis [-- Genesis] on scientific grounds. On the other hand, I pointed out, that the so-called scientific arguments which purport to deny the possibility of the Torah account of Creation are not scientific, since in truth science does not, and cannot, make such a claim. Moreover, modern science declares that it can never offer an unequivocal scientific solution to this and similar problems. The reason for this is not that modern science is still incomplete, but rather because of the very nature of science which can never speak in absolute terms; it can only offer working theories and hypotheses. Science can only examine and classify phenomena, and make probable, deductions and predictions. If these are eventually substantiated by experiment, the theories are confirmed as approximate verities. But never can science claim to speak in terms of absolute truths, for it would be a contradiction in itself.

The above is true in all areas of scientific inquiry. When it comes to the theory of evolution, dealing with an effort to reconstruct the distant past, science lacks even that decree of probability which it has in regard to future predictions, as explained at. some length in my said letter. Here science can only speculate. If such speculations are represented in text-books as "facts," then it. is a gross and unscientific misrepresentation.

To cite one illustration: For years the Ptolemaic system was accepted as true, according to which the sun revolves around the earth. Later Copernicus evolved the theory that the earth revolves around the son. This is the theory which is now given in all text-books as an indisputable fact.

But what are the facts? Aside from the fact that even the Copernican sun centered system is no more than a theory, subject to a variety of reservations, as all scientific theories must be apart, also, from the fact that the Copernican theory did not presume to settle all the situations relating to astrophysical, observations, but only answered more questions, and more simply, than the Ptolemaic - modern science has reached some revolutionary conclusions in the wake of the General Relativity Theory. Specifically, modern science is now convinced that when two systems are in motion relative to one another, it could never be ascertained, from the scientific view point, as to which is in motion and which a rest, or whether both are in motion. Let it be remembered that that the General Relativity Theory has bean accepted as fundamental to all exact sciences without dissent.

Yet – and it is surely no revelation to you – this new orientation in science is ignored in discussions relating to the Ptolemaic and Copernican theories on the high school level, but men in specialized studies of astronomy and physics in colleges and universities. In other words, science in many domains is still taught in terms of a scientific orientation which prevailed at the close of the 19th century, when two cardinal principles of science were yea unknown, namely the relativity theory, and that all scientific conclusions necessarily belong in the realm of probability, not certainty.

I once asked a professor of •science why he did not tell his students that from the viewpoint of the relativity theory the Ptolemaic system could claim just as much validity as the Copernican. He answered candidly that if he did that, he would lose his standing in the academic world, since he would be at variance with the prevalent legacy from the 19th century. I countered, "What about the moral issue?" The answer was silence.

In discussing this question with another scientist, he expressed surprise that there should be an individual in the 20th century who could still think that the earth stood still and the sun revolved around it. When I protested that from the viewpoint of modern science this could be as valid as the opposite theory, he could not refute it.

Please excuse the length of the above remarks, which have bean prompted by your statement relating to the acceptance or non-acceptance of the concepts expressed in my letter on evolution. I invite your further reactions.

[The letter was written in the year 1964]

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